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Peacemaking and Gunboat Diplomacy in Kenya. - Comments (1)

Printer Friendly Category: Articles,Behind the Lines,Venture in Africa
Author: John Malone
Date: 29th March, 2008 @ 11:31:03 PM

Well, the news is in that Kenya now has a new government signaling peace! There was dancing and shouting in the streets of Western Kenya as Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki finally promised to cede substantial power to Raila Odinga by creating the Prime Minister post he refused to create following his election in 2002.

As has been discussed here before, there are no good guys in this whole picture. But there ARE right and wrong acts. What has happened in Kenya in the last few days is that they have suspended their multi-party democracy to appoint Raila Odinga Prime Minister, and “share power” between “the government,” and “the opposition.” Of course, there has never been a true “opposition” in Kenyan politics unless one sees that the government itself is in opposition to the people of Kenya.

Now, you might think that I would be 100% behind actions that brought Kibaki to a change of mind, insofar it is his corrupt administration – in fact, his political henchman appointee Nick Wanjohi – that blatantly expropriated our assets. But this is not so. The short-term preservation of power and face that his action of receiving Raila Odinga as prime minister bought Kibaki likely comes at a huge price to Kenya, and Kenyans.

The main thing plaguing Kenya is the lack of rule of law. I read remarks by the always-insightful Warren Buffett the other day – now allegedly the richest man in the world, and a resident in my home town – and I thought his view was cogent on the fundamental strengths of a nation when he focused on the people, their talents, the liberty of enterprise, and the effectiveness of the rule of law. For instance, it is not a lack of law that created the circumstances for our expropriation. The Kenyan constitution specifically guarantees against expropriation and nationalization without commensurate remuneration. What creates the corruption underneath such a deed as an expropriation is the absence of the rule off law, not an absence of law.

So it is interesting to see the US and other Western nations pursue a political solution in Kenya that is, by all measures, well outside the laws of Kenya. Not only is the political solution lawless, but the means of achieving it equally so, by any standard.

Kenyan Elections

Here’s the short version of what happened. Kenya held its five-year presidential and parliamentary elections at the end of last year, on December 27th. This was the culmination of the election season in Kenya, where politicians parade around the country passing out money in order to be elected. Now, when I say “passing out money,” let me assure you that I witnessed the very acts on two occasions personally.

In the first instance, I watched soon-to-be defeated Njenga Karume, at the time the Minister of Defense, stop for tea at a roadside inn near Limuru where I happened to be staying. No sooner did his entourage stop at this inn, that the word went out in the electric word-of-mouth way that marks Kenya, and many wananchi showed up and began to sing. The numbers grew to perhaps 150. Finally, Karume emerged from his Land-rover, and, addressing the people, told them he has never denied them, and that he would “buy them tea” this afternoon. He handed a volunteer manage of the inn – a man no doubt looking to enrich himself – a stack of 1000 shillings notes. Then he drove off. For the next 20 minutes or so, I watched as the crowd doubled, matatus unloading young idle fellows looking for a handout. I am confident the young manager, despite taking physical risks passing money out to a mob, kept a sizable piece for himself.

A second instance I witnessed involved the “campaigning” of a candidate on the road to Kijabe. In this case, I had the advantage of overlooking a large open field, wherein the campaign car drove. The running wananchi emulated, from where I stood, the wildebeest migration of the Masai Mara / Serengeti as they swarmed to this vehicle. Why the swarming, I asked my friend? “They will be passing the money out there, ” he said. Sure enough.

Now, understand that people will not run perhaps two or three kilometers for no reason. This is the campaign season in Kenya: passing out money, or goods such as sugar or flour that act as money. It is a planned and provisioned activity. It is so well known among the people, that when former president Moi passed money out in 1992, they nicknamed the new 500 shillings currency printed at the time the “Jirongo,” after Cyrus Jirongo, Moi’s organizational leader of the “KANU Youth” organization.

Every political party funds these “youth organizations,” more or less. This is the way politics are done. Who are these “youth?” The Bible calls them “lewd fellows of the baser sort,” probably better translated “ruffians idling in the marketplace.” Kenyans politics, at the constituency level, are filled with various forms of bribery and intimidation, including on occasion fistfights between candidates and their supporters. Low-level political operatives, as in every place, expect to receive spoils for their candidate’s win. These spoils can be small by the standards of others, but even small amounts can go a long way.

For instance, Hitler’s National Socialist Party was organized around such a principal, with its 50,000 member “S.A.” being comprised substantially of untrained young German idlers – ruffians. This organization struggled on a band-aid with mere promises of enrichment once the National Socialists gained political power in the government. Once Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, one of the first things he did was arrange for this S.A. to become police auxiliary which then descended on the populace to fend for themselves using state power. They fed in restaurants for free, sold pictures of Hitler for exorbitant prices, and committed general thuggery and mayhem against Hitler’s political enemies. This ascent of the S.A. did not happen by accident. These were part of the spoils of political victory.

Prior to the December 27th, 2007 elections in Kenya, both major parties, the Kabaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had their necessary resources and strategies in place to win the election. Kibaki was not going to lose power, no matter what, and had his rigging plans in the works. No doubt, he had several ways to alter the vote. Odinga also had his plans, including lower level vote rigging, but primarily much of his strategy involved thuggery – albeit through proxies – bought by some small cash, but more by preposterous promises of spoil after the election.

Odinga’s followers, during the election run-ups, were told many things. This news leaked out readily. Young Luo boys would board buses and matatus telling passengers to “make way for the government,” a not-so-oblique reference to their tribal privileges when Odinga seized power. Slum dwellers in Kibera were told that when Odinga was in power, they would not have to pay rent to the owners of their housing – largely Kikuyus. In fact, there was reportedly a massive stoppage of rent payments during the run-up.

These are debts Odinga will have to yet pay, somehow, because as in all politics, the tail will eventually wag the dog.

The Kibaki side is different, but no better. It is comprised of a more well-to-do constituency, but not in the Western sense of the term. There is a rising middle class in Kenya, but it is very small, and still, generally, a poor one. Kibaki’s PNU, however, still has its own set of thugs available, and apparently had substantially more money to spread around, especially because it controlled government resources. While Kibaki is Kikuyu, and therefore enjoys that tribal allegiance, he has his appeal to all the Bantu tribes.

Nevertheless, Kibaki’s PNU has some access to roughnecks, and there are not-easily-dismissed allegations that it is that political money which is behind the notorious and dangerous sect called “Mungiki,” which uses untoward and terrorist means to enforce its will in Kikuyu areas around Mount Kenyan and beyond. The Mungiki seem to act a bit like the Mau Mau of the 1950’s and 60’s, having their distinct Kikuyu flavor, which include oath taking, and things strangled .

Almost by definition, the Bantus will enjoy more economic success than their opponents, the Nilodic people, of whom are Odinga and the Luos. Briefly, the Bantu culture is farm-based, while the Nilodic culture is cattle-based, bringing with it concepts of an open range. These cultures can never ultimately co-exist, especially when arable and fertile land is at the kind of premium it is in Kenya, where 90% of the population lives on less than 11% of the land. The Bantus are seen, therefore, as enterprisers, as they acquire land and develop it.

The Luo people are distinguished for their academic and professional pursuits, where they statistically excel beyond their proportion of society. Some of the Nilodic tribes in Kenya, such as the Masai, preserve their traditional culture, and provide – without direct compensation, really – much of the background for Kenya’s usually thriving tourism industry.

Odinga’s campaign was helped, in part, by having enough money and connections in the US to hire public relations experts and or lobbyists such as Dick Morris, former Bill Clinton adviser. Odinga even enlisted campaign help from Illinois senator and Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, prior to the latter’s candidacy. The involvement of these US icons, together with the Luo penchant to emulate the USA in so many ways, brought informed influencers in Kenya to conclude that Raila Odinga’s candidacy was supported, albeit it tacitly, by the US.

The stakes were raised among Kibaki supporters when an MOU was leaked and widely circulated, wherein Odinga agreed with elements of Islam in Kenya to allow Sharia law top operate in certain Districts, and to recognize Islam and its god and tenets as superior to those of the Christian faith. in fact, this MOU provided for the governmental enforcement against Christian evangelism in predominately Muslim areas.

There can be no realistic doubt Kibaki forces planned to rig the elections. Odinga forces rigged them as much as they could as well, being out of power. Equally, there can be no doubt that the violence following the elections was not spontaneous. It was planned and paid for.

One wonders what would have happened to the Kikuyus in Western Kenya and the Rift Valley had Odinga come to power. Top Kikuyu leaders understood these prospects well before the election, and there was actually no way they were going to allow that prospect to take place.

So, this was the situation on the ground at the end of the “elections.” There is a significant question whether Kibaki “won” them, but there is no question that Kibaki and Kalonzo Musyoka – both leaders of Bantu tribes – together held a majority of the at-large vote.

The Solution

After heralding, since at least 1997, if not 1992, that Kenya was a “multi-party democracy,” the recent solution between warring election cheaters in Kenya was to divide the spoils of government between the two parties in a coalition government. Effectively, this solution has bound the two parties – opposition and government – into one.

The political solution imposed on Kenyans was simple enough. It was simply to require two warring factions to implement something they had agreed to do in 2003, following the elections: share the power of the Presidency by devolving it in part to a prime Minister. Supposedly Kibaki and Odinga had agreed to something just like that when they were all part of the NARC party that swept not only into power, but also swept KANU out.

Of course, the NARC party was composed of many KANU leaders! And the KANU party had reverted back to the Kenyatta family – Uhuru Kenyatta was its Presidential candidate – and he now holds an important portfolio in the PNU government!

So what is the real solution in Kenya? It is a plutocracy of the first order in the government, and “wannabe” plutocrats in the Parliament. What was one of the first acts of this new Parliament? To give themselves another raise, and to preserve their income-tax-free status! The Kenyan Parliament is the highest paid in the world in relative terms.

The only difference between the “coalition government” that now is, and the Kibaki regime before, is that civil warfare and international pressure caused Kibaki to let Odinga in to also cash in on the booty.

The problem is that Kenyans now have a one-party system of repressive government that they will not soon be able to shake off.

The Methodology

Due to the amount of electoral support mustered by Odinga against the Kibaki autocracy, especially in Western Kenya, and the obvious cheating by the Kibaki regime, Raila Odinga’s organization gained credibility beyond its due. It was able to enlist the interest and support of a broad spectrum of international partners.

The “international community,” on its part, was more than happy to get interested, especially with the leadership of the US and the UK, which look upon Kenya as a Western bastion in an otherwise unstable area. The Kibaki regime added impetus to the international movement against him by persistently catering to China and untrustworthy Middle Eastern powers.

This solution was enforce upon Kenyans by international forces, spearheaded by the Bush Administration.

This same Bush administration that refuses to call an expropriation of American assets what it is, performed a series of “carrot-and-stick” operations, including, at the end, nothing sort of gunboat diplomacy, spearheaded by President Gunboat himself.

The escalation of American power against Kibaki was interesting to watch. First, of course, was the ineffective Pollyanna Mike Ranneberger, the latest in a series of three ineffective and naive US Ambassadors to Kenya. The US State Department seems to be a breeding ground of arrogant yet ignorant ambassadors who aren’t fit to tie the vomit-covered shoes of, say, Sir Edward Clay of the UK.

Ranneberger started out by praising the wonderful democracy of the Kenyan government. He told me personally that the US didn’t recognize Kenya as a democracy until the 2002 elections! While I was trying to tell him the Kibaki government was corrupt, he was busy telling me how wonderful this new Kenya was! This was in September 2007, and while he was speaking, it’s likely the Kibaki forces were arranging rigging, and the Odinga forces were planning civil disorder and mayhem. Ranneberger was the only diplomat of a significant world power that immediately praised the election of Kibaki.

After Ranneberger showed his stuff, and showed that it wasn’t enough, Jendayi Fraser of the Bureau of African Affairs made a visit. Fraser is also a political light-weight, but did signal were the US was headed with Kibaki when she mentioned “genocide.” Of course, this was code, easily to be understood, because the word “genocide” carries with it, in an international legal sense, the use if international force. Frazier came to fire a warning shot.

However, Kibaki and his fellows were in for heavier artillery when Condoleeza Rice came to Nairobi to talk about how it is that the international community will not stand by and let Kenya become destabilized. After all, Kenya is in the midst of US initiatives in the region – Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea – to establish a military command in Africa to secure whatever US interests arise.

But when President Bush came to Tanzania, and stayed their three days out of a 5-day trip, finally sending President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania to deliver his message to Kibaki, the final point was made. I have little doubt that the message included the promise of military force and significant economic sanctions if Kibaki didn’t include Odinga in his government. And this message was pitched into a situation where the Kenyan military was likely divided about supporting Kibaki’s “election win” wholeheartedly.

The method by which the solution was reached was probably more damaging to the average Kenyan than the solution itself. Kenyans lost the sovereignty of heir nation. They lost independence. And they lost the rule of law, as the orchestration of a substantially new Parliament to amend the constitution, and otherwise enable to new coalition of government was a pretty sad show to watch.

What will be the result? Well, time will certainly tell, but it probably won’t tell a very different story. There will need to be many more office amenities provided, many more Mercedes purchased, many more plutocrats included in the feeding frenzy.

After that, it will be “business as usual.”

Comment by Consolata Mwimali » 29th July, 2010 @ 12:35:22 AM

This is a very informed article laden with heavy information about the situation in Kenya at that particular time. It is true that in Kenya politicians are very insensitive both to the simple mwananchi, the country and the rule of law. They lack the basic good governance attributes and this is their pride. The voter is equally to blame as he/she does not make informed wise decisions as they take the politician’s word as gospel truth and at the same time, most Kenyans are very proud to have tribal inclinations on matters of their future and welfare.

It will take Kenyans quite some time to change for the better

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